Disability participation

Disability Sports Australia - partnership

Disability Sports Australia (DSA) and Australian Dragon Boat Federation (AusDBF) are steering towards a journey of accessibility. The strategic collaboration falls under DSA's Sports Incubator program, design to empower sporting organisations to enhance inclusive pathways for individuals with a disability.

The long-term goal of this partnership is increased participation of Paradragons and more people with disability engaging in the sport.

The Sports Incubator program's overarching goal is to create environments so that people with disability can thrive and ensure organisations feel more confident and capable delivering accessible programs.


'Impairment' or 'Disability' ?

Although 'impairment' and 'Disability' are often used interchangeably, the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) sees a clear distinction between them and ecnourages everyone in teh dragon boat commuity to treat the two words appropriately. For us:

an 'impairment' is the condition that a person is living with: while

a 'disability' is a restriction on that a person's ability to carry out functions because of the impairment.

'Disability' is therefore related to context. For example, a visually impaired person has a sensory impairment that may make it difficult or impossible for them to drive a car safely; they are considered 'disabled' as far as driving is concerened, but the impairment may have little effect on their ability to paddle powerfully.

There is avariety of ways for indiviuals with disability to be involved in the sport of dragon boat.


Participation Pathways

Stay tuned for announcements regarding a pilot disability participation 'come and try' (program) at local clubs. 

Connect with local clubs through our Club Finder on the home page and check your suitability to be able to participate in local regattas and events with the club.


Invictus Australia 

Invictus Australia offers opportunities for veterans and their families regardless of abilities to engage with the many dragon boat communities across Australia.L

To find out more connect with Invictus Australia staff through their Facebook group or email support@invictusaustralia.org 


High-Performance Pathways 

The Para-dragons Divsion is for dragon boat paddlers who are living with some form of physical, psychosocial, neurological, sensory, developmental or intellectual impairment.

Para-dragons participants can be part of a club that mainly has unimpaired paddlers and although there may be fewer clubs, their numbers are increasing.

If you are interested in finding out more information, a starting point could be contacting AusDBF.

Click here to find out more about the International Para-dragon division.


Introducing AusDBF Disability Ambassadors 

Lindy Hou - ACT 

Retired from Para-Cycling in 2008. Linda became legally blind in 1996.

Linda tried lots of sports, however found dragon boat to be very inclusive.

"People of all ability can participate in dragon boat with little modification required".

"I participated in a dragon boat team building excerise years ago with a group of Para-cyclists  who had

a range of disabilities from arm or leg amputee, vision impaired and Cerebalpalsy - the experience  was amazing".

"I believe that building a culture of inclusion of all ability in sports can help break down barriers inour society".


Mark Kusin - WA

Mark has participated in dragon boat for 30 years, is a life member of his Club and servved on the DBWA Board.

In 2023 Mark represented the 'Auroras; in the Senior C Division at the World Dragon Boat Championships.

Mark suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) (the retinas are dying from the outside in. "Over the years I have adapated 

my paddling as I could no longer rely on my eyesight to get the timing right. I listen carefully for the drumming and sound

of the paddles hitting the water and feel the rythm of the boat, plus what my paddle, water and body are doing".

"I believe if something gives you enjoyment you should do all you can to foster, nuture and improve it".

Julie Pretner - VIC

Julie was diagnosed with Lupus in her mid 20's, three years after diagnosis she lost her her central and peripheral vision.

Julie has 3 children.

Julie enjoys music, and playing sports growing up. 

"I have learnt that by listening to each other and working ons trategies together, the majority of people are more

than willing to accommodate and modify their approach enabling me to participate in activities".

"The reason to be an Ambasador is due to the experience I had when I first tried dragon boat. My friend who asked

me to come along, had not informed the club of my impairment, the clubs members were  very welcoming. 

When I returned the next week, the club had taken it upon themselves to use a rubber mat to cover the gap between the dock and the boat enabling me to learn how to safely embark and disembark".